Two major reports show Boeing did nothing about 737 Max before accidents

The New York Times and CNBC/Wall Street Journal yesterday posted in depth reports showing that Boeing was being pressed by pilots to do something about their concerns and declined to do so. In summary:

Pilots went as far as asking for an emergency action to correct software but Boeing declined and expected pilots to handle any issues until the company was ready to present a fix in its own time.

Mike Sinnet, a Boeing Vice-President was recorded on November 27 2018, saying that he acknowledged their were possible design flaws, but that nobody had any proof the Lion Air crash was caused by the MCAS system.

Boeing had a highly contentious meeting that day with American Airlines union representatives who were apparently outraged at Boeing’s lack of empathy or response.

What came out of the meeting was that Boeing seemed unaware that the MCAS system was even on the aircraft and senior staff had no idea what it did. Boeing’s attitude to pilots seems to have been “well now you know it’s there you can handle it”.

Boeing was pressed by pilots to issue an FAA airworthiness directive but they didn’t want to, claiming rushing it could make things worse.

Boeing’s lack of understanding at what the MCAS did, led them to assume standard pilot training would enable them to handle the system, even if they didn’t know it was there, and that’s why it wasn’t included in training updates on the conversion course.

CNBC/WSJ revealed that the FAA had failed to:

  • Monitor Boeing’s key safety assessment at a high level
  • Didn’t ask questions at the right time
    Boeing didn’t label the MCAS system as having any potential safety issues if mishandled – leaving it uninvestigated
    The warning system telling pilots that the angle of attack sensor failure warning light wasn’t either turned on by default or not even present as it was an optional extra, was not told to the FAA.

There seems to be an acceptance that nobody acted maliciously in any way, but that lack of understanding, lack of unified system oversight and lack of complete communication, where someone understood every part of the system and it’s consequences, simply wasn’t there.